Friday, September 13, 2013

The Least Northwestern of Games

Last Saturday, the 'Cats opened the season at Ryan Field by hosting out-of-conference nemesis Syracuse.  The 'Cats hoped to improve on their first game with the comforts of home: a reasonable time slot instead of playing at some ridiculous midnight moon time, stands full of Wildcat partisans, and an inspiring tarp that stood in for empty seats that opposing teams could look towards and imagine thousands of angry fist claws shouting at them on third down, theoretically.
Early speculation remains that the tarp will be deployed at a future Big Ten game-- 
imagine the opposing team feeling comfortable down by the north endzone and 
prepared to go about its business when the tarp is suddenly lifted to reveal a secret 
cache of Northwestern fans in a common football tactic known as the "Trojan Tarp"
(Photo from

Northwestern and Syracuse have played enough over the past few years to create something of a rivalry.  Some Syracuse fans have complained about the officiating in the last game that allowed Northwestern's dramatic comeback; I will never forgive Greg Paulus for his excellent play in a win against Northwestern, and I'm disappointed that Fitz never returned the favor by putting in Juice Thompson or Luka Mirkovic in for a play to show them what it's like and also to accrue a never-used NCAA infraction for attempting to play graduated basketball players in a football game because of spite.


I think as Northwestern fans, we can all be greatly disappointed by the kind of football played by Northwestern the past weekend.  Kain Colter returned to combine with Trevor Siemian into an unstoppable bomb-throwing, scrambling, optioning, quarterbacking monster that I will be referring to as The Colterian.
As the old football adage says: if you have two quarterbacks you 
have no quarterbacks unless they are melded into a two-headed 
multi-limbed mutant capable of optioning to itself and coming 
up with the world's most elaborate celebratory handshake

The high-powered offense and an opportunistic defense that snagged another four interceptions allowed the 'Cats to leap out to a 34-7 lead at the half.  I don't know about you, but I watch Northwestern for the adrenaline after last year's Four Quarters of Terror campaign, not to watch them slice up a defense, to watch Dan Vitale and Treyvon Green become stars, and to see the spread offense wreak havoc with an arsenal of receivers who are all named Jones.  There weren't even accusations of Wacky Races skulduggery to have opinions about and no coaches calling the team a disgrace to the concept of college football which is doubly insulting because the NCAA exists and sets a pretty high standard of being an insult to college football. 

I hope the Northwestern football establishment realizes the disappointment of fans who expect to spend the duration of games strapped into their recliners as the Wildcat defense is expected to perform a Reverse Teen Wolf and return to a feeble teenage Michael J. Fox status that allows the other team to start inexplicably executing hail mary passes and Roundtree Catches.  What kind of lunatic who is invested in a college football team wants to see them playing extraordinarily well against an ACC team because of an incredibly entertaining offense that dominates even with Venric Mark out?  I don't ask much from Northwestern football other than a vision of oblivion in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter where I enter an otherworldly plane, an out-of-body experience that is happening because I'm worried that the football team I like might lose.


This week, Northwestern will play Western Michigan.  This was not supposed to happen.  It came about because of the Assassination of the Northwestern-Vandebilt Rivalry by the Coward James Franklin.  As you may recall, and given that you are reading like the eighth-most trafficked Northwestern football blog on the internet I'm guessing that you do, Vanderbilt canceled its 2013 and 2014 series against the Wildcats with a variety of low-tech notification methods including a telegraph, a passenger pigeon, a Soviet-era analogue hotline, and a disastrous attempt to send a gorilla-gram with an actual gorilla that just ended in a tragic Nashville-area gorilla rampage presumably because Northwestern kept beating them and James Franklin and the Vanderbilt Athletic Department are yellower-bellied than the Yella Fella Yellawood pitchman who is apparently a powerful football booster at Auburn University.
No, thank you, I prefer not to be Coltered, says a 
terrified James Franklin.  I should probably add here 
that I have no idea if Vandy dropped the series because 
they wanted an easier schedule, but I took a vow long 
ago that if I could vaguely accuse an opposing athletic 
program of ducking Northwestern I would react the 
same way that Clubber Lang would because I train 
alone, I blog alone, and I tweet "shut up old man" at 
any geriatric Vanderbilt supporters I can identify 
in cyberspace

Western Michigan is a program in transition.  They are led by 32-year-old first-year head coach P.J. Fleck, who has the square-jawed enthusiasm of a Fitz but has decided that he is obsessed with overwrought boat-paddling metaphors.
Fleck traces the influence of his motivational techniques to Hagar the Horrible

The Broncos have had a rough season so far.  Last week, they were upset by FCS Nicholls State in the Fortress Waldo Stadium (which is perhaps the platonic ideal for a MAC stadium name, with the possible exception of Kelly-Shorts-- much like the Great Fillmore/Arthur Muttonchop Debate, I believe that is best left to the taste of the reader).  Northwestern is expected to prevail here against an inexperienced team whose best days are ahead of it.

It would be a mistake, though, to assume the 'Cats are taking this lightly.  Pat Fitzgerald is more committed to living one game at a time than Vin Diesel is to living one quarter-mile at a time and expressing himself through tank top.  Fitz doesn't care about what happens beyond that; if a government agency were to deploy to his house and tell him that in two weeks, a group of malevolent aliens will invade the Earth and the only way to stop them is by commandeering a spacecraft that can be piloted by high-intensity fist pumps and that Fitz was the only one who could stop the imminent destruction of the planet, I'm fairly sure he would send them away because he wants to take another look at that Western Michigan bunch formation.


I don't know if you've been paying attention, but the Illini had a fairly convincing victory against a Cincinnati team  that had previously laid waste to Purdue University.  This week, they take on a ranked Washington team in Soldier Field.  According to ESPN's Big Ten Blog, "Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said back in 2011 that he hoped the university would become the 'king of Chicago,'" in the escalating War to Determine Chicago's Big Ten Team.  Jim Phillips then escalated the situation by dressing in regal purple robes in front of a map of the Demesne Kingdom of of Chicagoland with sketches of dragons in Missouri and giants near Peoria.  The desperate attempt of Northwestern and Illinois to capture the Chicago market has been one of the most dramatic turf wars in the Big Ten as they vie against each other and the approximately 99% of Chicagoans who root for the Bears and whatever college they went to.

Meanwhile, Tim Beckman and new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit are planning on extricating themselves from the Big Ten cellar this season.  A win against Washington would not only be a major step in righting the program and establishing the Beck Man Era in Champaign, it would also be a warning shot fired across the bow of Northwestern, a notice that the Beck Men are coming for The Hat.  As we speak, Beckman is doing pull-ups in a dimly-lit corner of the Illini football complex and had #HAT tattooed across both of his sets of knuckles.


"However, when the revolution broke out, he changed his name to Anacharsis Cloots and set himself up as a spokesman for the human race."

That is a pretty good sentence, and it is by Hugh Gough in an essay about the French Revolution's effect on Europe (in his edited volume Ireland and the French Revolution).  He is referring, of course, to the Baron de Cloots, a Dutch-Prussian nobleman who got caught up in the revolutionary fervor of 1789 as a way to promote his ideas about a broader revolutionary world state.  Cloots was a close relative of Cornelius De Pauw, a French philosopher who pushed the idea that the New World degenerated all men and beasts who arrive there.  Americans took umbrage to this.  Even ideological enemies Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton could agree that they did not live in an ecological backwater that stunted growth and had cruddy, inferior wildlife.  Jefferson and Madison exchanged notes on weasel measurements in order to counter claims of degeneracy; Jefferson attempted to counter the claims of the Comte de Buffon, the leading degeneracy advocate, with a process that could best be described as "take a look at this moose-- who is degenerate now, Buffon?" 
Buffon scoffs at the paltry size of American 

Cloots got too wrapped up in the Revolution for his own good.  As the Terror folded back on itself, Cloots was unable to see the Revolution carried into universal human principle.  On the other hand, he left a legacy of inspiring historians to craft spectacular sentences, such as this one by William Doyle in the Oxford History of the French Revolution:

"To substantiate the charge of a foreign plot, a clutch of colorful aliens perished with them too, including Clootz, who bade farewell to his beloved human race in front of the biggest crowd ever to surround the guillotine."


Western Michigan may not be the most daunting opponent on the schedule, but the Broncos have nothing to lose in Evanston.  Fitzgerald will attempt to guide his team to another rejection of Northwestern football as we know it by winning without trying to kill his fans and without accusations of intrigue.  And then he will take the title of Anacharsis Fitz, Spokesman For All Humanity when he declares "Something something, Our Young Men, Winning, Go 'Cats."


No comments: